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Hello Universe

Was It Something I Said?

By Aurora Starr

I rarely apologize anymore. Why? Because saying you’re sorry is the new black. “Sorry” means nothing if it is overused, disingenuous or a faux plea of ignorance. Today so many feel compelled to apologize ad nauseum. “I’m sorry for eating the last slice.” No, you’re not. “I’m sorry, BUT…” Wow, that’s heartfelt. “I’m sorry for hitting on your best friend.” No, you’re sorry you got caught.

So, when a person commented in typical social media fashion (one or two brief sentences with no backup or backbone) on one of my recent posts, I was not surprised. I was called: “Petty, immature and unoriginal.

Well, my first reaction was to reply to her comment with an old and timeless classic of my own: “F**k you.” Perhaps my manners won out, or maybe the Vodka hadn’t kicked in yet, but my sober mind prevailed and I refrained from joining her in verbal fisticuffs. Then came the second and final sentence of her insightful manifesto, “I can’t believe this person is a therapist.” First of all, I never claimed I was. Had she bothered to read the entire blog or any number of my other posts, she would have figured that one out all on her own. However, her uninformed remark did force the editors of this blog to post a disclaimer about my non-therapist credentials. I don’t blame them. It seems people are overly sensitive these days. Or are they?

I WILL STATE THE FOLLOWING IN BIG LETTERS SO THE TROLLS WILL UNDERSTAND THAT THIS IS NOT A POLITICAL POST.  DO NOT WASTE MY TIME OR THE EDITORS’ TIME BY TRYING TO MAKE IT ONE. I’m not treading on your First Amendment Rights, either. You have an opinion? Wonderful and good for you! Now go share it with the people who already think like you. There, I’m done. Happy places, everyone. Happy places, I say!

Maybe it isn’t that people are more sensitive these days. Maybe it’s that people have bigger and multiple platforms with which to tell you the effects of your actions and words or at least their opinions about them. People haven’t suddenly become more sensitive, they have suddenly become able to let you know how they feel or what they think in real time. Opinions are not inherently bad, but they aren’t facts either. This isn’t new and it isn’t groundbreaking. What is interesting is that opinions are like apologies, they mean nothing if they are not thought out, contain less than three actual sentences or consist exclusively of preconceived talking points.

The world hasn’t changed, but the amount of meaningless fodder you have about it has. Regardless of what your opinion is on whether or not people are overly sensitive isn’t much more different now than it was before. It’s just that now Bob in Kansas (#Sorry Bob and Kansas…) can co-opt someone else’s platform to spout off whatever he likes or dislikes, and it may not be something we agree with or, in fact, may be misinformed, racist, sexist or just plain stupid. Thanks, Bob.

If the current trends in our culture have taught me anything it is this, we have ignored each other for far too long. I want a fair exchange of ideas, not talking points. Discourse and civilization thrive when we engage in respectful dialogue, and not through impulsive reactions to a blog post written from personal lived experiences. In short, you don’t get to throw shit on my “wall” and then walk away. Can we instead talk and learn from each other? If your answer is yes, then I am in. And for this I will never say “Sorry.”

Shine brightly,
Aurora

Please note: The opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily the views of eTalkTherapy. Aurora Starr is a freelance writer, not a therapist, and her views, thoughts and opinions are her own. However, if you are easily offended then Aurora’s blog may not be for you. 

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Existential GPS

The Accidental Existentialist Issue 3

Read the SUMMER 2018 edition of The Accidental Existentialist now or download it to read later. In this issue you will find great articles and new works by mental health professionals Dr. Chloe Paidoussis-MitchellMorgan Roberts, Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk and Don Laird. We would love to hear from you, please leave a comment below – Enjoy!

The sun struggles up another beautiful day,
And I felt glad in my own suspicious way,
Despite the contradiction and confusion,
Felt tragic without reason,
There’s malice and there’s magic in every season…
— Elvis Costello

TAE_JanFeb18_Issue1
Click Cover to Read or Download PDF

In spite of the sunshine and best of intentions, the summer months can sometimes feel like a glass half-empty, glass half-full question. It is the noontime of our seasonal clocks and, in my case, a faint reminder of the noontime of existence. Seasonally we are poised to reach our yearly zenith of sunshine, warmth and outdoor activities. Yet, at fifty-two years of age I am situated well into the second half of my life. With luck, I might have another 30 years, but the reality of it is, and existentially speaking, there are no guarantees. For all intents and purposes the shadow of death grows just a bit larger with each passing day. Unlike when I was in my thirties, I feel it now. It’s not a concept, theory or construct; it’s physical and it can haunt my thoughts at the damndest times. The words of Nietzsche seem to echo for me these days in a different, but comforting way, “We would consider every day wasted,” remarks Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, “in which we had not danced at least once. And we would consider every truth false that was not followed by at least one laugh.” May your summer be long and filled with as many hopes, dreams and fulfilled wishes as you can imagine.

Peace,
Don

In this issue:


(Smultronstället) Wild Strawberries: Therapy and the Art of Aging
by Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor onlineSince their inception, motion pictures have allowed us to explore the human condition through an amalgamation of sound, lighting, editing, musical score and performance, coupled with traditional storytelling. To claim that one film more than any other illuminates the arc of human existence that it has become a standard by which all other films of its type shall be measured may seem like an overstatement. Yet, Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries manages to accomplish this in 90 minutes of postwar beauty. Read more…


Love Wins: Groundbreaking LGBTQIA Leaders Through History  
by Morgan Roberts, MSPC

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Every June, there are Pride Parades throughout the country and world, celebrating gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual individuals. Nevertheless, there are many who continually attempt to invalidate the lives of those in the LGBTQIA community. More conservative states frequently pass legislature hindering the community which contradicts public opinion. The Human Rights Campaign reported in 2014 that 59 percent of Americans support marriage equality, with 61 percent of people favor allowing same-sex couples to adopt. Read more…


Grief Matters: Living with Loss
by Dr. Chloe Paidoussis-Mitchell, Cpsychol, UK Chartered Counselling Psychologist
(Follow her blog at https://dr-chloe.com

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As a Grief Psychologist, I have the privilege of working with people from all over the globe who are struggling to find a way to embrace life meaningfully again after a very painful loss.

Grief is inevitable. All of us will experience it at some point in our life and how we respond to it is unique to us. Grief is a personal, psychological response to the death of a very loved one and when it happens – whether expected or sudden – it is painful, disorientating and knocks our sense of who we are, how we are and what feels relevant and meaningful again. In grief, our regular way of being is no longer relevant. People often talk about feeling lost and alienated. Read more…


The Impact of Chronic Stress
by Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk, MSPC

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Stress is difficult to contend with for many. Chronic stress has the potential to impact an individual’s physiological and/or psychological health and well-being. Long-term, the probability exists for stress to spillover into important facets of daily life, and affect an individual’s capacity to function.

HPA Axis
Health related issues begin systematically, many times, prior to an individual having awareness of physiological and/or psychological issues being present or the associated long-term effects. The hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis has an important role in fighting and managing stress. Read more…


Do you have an idea for an article or would you like to contribute to our magazine?

This is your opportunity to submit educational and informative content that promotes growth in all aspects of mental health issues from an existential or humanistic perspective. Upon publication of your article, you will receive a $25 stipend.

Submit your queries at eTalkTherapy.com/submit.

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Life Lessons

Mindfulness, Does it Really Matter?

by Christina Pettinato, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

RING! BUZZ! RING! BUZZ!

There is a moment when you realize the sudden pulsing light is not part of your sweet, slumbering dream. Grasping at the air with foggy uncertainty, you reach out in a flopping seal like motion to silence the sound of your morning wake up call. Rolling out of bed you manage to overcome the almost Quixotic task of lumbering into the shower, and within a blink of an eye you are sitting at your work desk wondering “How did I get here?

More often than you’d like to admit, you often find yourself pointlessly functioning in the world around you. Looking back at the days, weeks, and even months, life sometimes seems to be a blurry mess. With all the modern-day challenges, you try to stay afloat within the abyss of past missteps and worries of an uncertain future. It’s no wonder you may feel like your life is moving at the speed of light. So what can you do to slow things down and enjoy the present or maybe even remember what happened last week? Folks, there is a reason this is called auto pilot, and we need a way out!

Most of us have heard about mindfulness, but what is it really? When you think about Mindfulness you want to create a state of consciousness in which you are solely aware of the present moment. With a calm mind, you acknowledge and accept your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. The focus is on the present moment, and releasing your past and future dwellings. In short, you can look at yourself with intention and in a nonjudgmental way to integrate mind and body and spirit.

What I have for you today are three simple techniques you can use to introduce Mindfulness into your daily routine.

1 – One Minute of Mindfulness

Mindfulness doesn’t require hours of meditating like a Tibetan monk. Instead, you want to create mindful moments throughout your day. You are going to need a timer for this exercise. What you want to do is take a seated spot with your feet flat on the floor, your back resting comfortably, and your hands in a relaxed position. After you start the timer, it is your task to focus on your breathing for one minute.

You may close your eyes or keep them open during this exercise. There is no wrong or right way to breath. If you find yourself getting lost in your thoughts, bring your attention back to your breathing. Remember, if you notice a thought creeping in and you begin to move away from focusing on your breathing, it is Okay. Bring your attention back to your breathing as many times as you need. Refocus on connecting your body and breath. Move within the moment back and forth to bring your attention back to your breathing.

2 – Mindful Eating

As you sit down to eat a meal, do attempt to remove any distractions to bring full attention to your eating experience. You want to connect your body with each of the five senses during this exercise.

Before eating your meal, visually explore your food noting the colors, shapes, and textures that you see. Next, call attention to the scent of your food. Notice the aroma and the sensation you feel as the scents move through your nose. Then bring your attention to touch, listening, and lastly introduce taste. Be mindful for the first 3 bites of your meal. Focus on the smell, texture, taste, and any changes you may experience as you chew your food. Explore each of your senses. Savor the moment with an intention to experience solely through your senses.

3 – Pause and Observe

Choose a moment of the day and find a place that feels right for you. Once you feel you are ready, take a moment to pause and look at your surroundings. In this moment, you are intentionally choosing to focus on your environment.

Simply observe. Notice where your attention brings you as you use your eyes to observe your environment. Try to notice without judgment, without critique.  Continue to observe for as long as you like, and stay present in the moment. During this exercise allow enough time for your body to naturally adjust and relax.

Whether you are attempting to learn a new technique, to be more productive, or to find alternative ways to ground yourself in your busy lifestyle using mindfulness is a great tool to help you stop smell and the roses. Next time we will explore three additional steps to help you on your path to self awareness.

Avanti,
Christina

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Hello Universe

Middle of the Road, What Crisis?

By Aurora Starr

Common mythos dictates that when a bell rings an angel gets his wings, and correspondingly when a woman turns 40 a cougar is born. It’s unclear to me how men were given a pass on not having their midlife years branded with some analogous wild-critter reference.

Men get new sport cars or over-sized urban assault vehicles, or new “hair,” and the inevitable young blonde from the marketing department with the lively boobage. Oh, and that office relationship started off as the bullshit of all pop-psychology terms “an emotional affair.” Midlife women often get unfairly tagged as older horn dogs or bitches who pursue younger men in search of wanton sex to fill their empty and sad lives. That’s not to say some of these women don’t exist. Who doesn’t know some surgically altered, Forever 21 shopping, “milf” or milf wannabe? Let’s be real. Yet, isn’t it sad that we need such labels to begin with, especially for females?

I am still a few miles away from the signpost that is 40, but I am close enough that I still get some peculiar and often rude questions that are the curse of being a single gal in her waning 30s.

Did you know some women are having their first baby in their forties these days?” They are! That’s awesome! They must be so hashtag Blessed! Since I won’t be there for a few years, can I sign-up now for my little bundle of pre-menopausal joy?

Still haven’t found Mr. Right?” Excuse me, but maybe my love meter doesn’t necessarily light up just for men. It does, but let me parry this assumption for a moment. If Mister or Miss Right does exist (and he/she doesn’t), I was clearly having too much fun at Madam Spinster’s School of Old-Maidery to give a shit.

I’ve been thinking about getting my first tattoo…does that count? I traveled to some exotic places a few years ago…does that count? I take care of my cats… I rarely bounce checks… I am very much aware that my 30s are nearing their sad, sad, sad demise. What have I achieved? I’ve been adulting for almost twenty years. Shouldn’t I be more secure in what and who I am? Isn’t that the way it is? For who? For me? Well, I feel just fine.

Is 40 such a big deal? Is it the new 30? How much more time do I have left? If I’ve got 30 or 40 years with luck, will I be healthy for most of them and be able to do the things I want to do? What do I want to accomplish? Well, the short answer is I want to give, learn, explore and be helpful in the second and final chapter of my life. There is no master plan, but I think trying to be a civil, honest and giving person may just have its own rewards. But hey, who knows, maybe I’ll adjust my love meter and hit up that young blonde from marketing.

Shine brightly,
Aurora

Please note: The opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily the views of eTalkTherapy. Aurora Starr is a freelance writer, not a therapist, and her views, thoughts and opinions are her own. However, if you are easily offended then Aurora’s blog may not be for you. 

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Peace, Love & Anxiety

Everyday folk

by Christy Gualtieri

For Christmas last year, one of my brothers gifted our dad with one of those ancestry-type DNA tests, the kind where you spit into a tube and mail it away. You wait for a while, and then results get sent back to you, sort of breaking down your ancestral heritage.  He hasn’t received any results yet, but I’m decently clear on my family’s history – on the one side there’s some Eastern European and some Irish (more Irish than not, I believe); and on the other, there’s Cuban. My father’s parents were from Cuba, but up until recently I learned that they were only in Cuba for that one generation. Before that, they were from Spain.

My other brother told me last week that he found out recently through some other family of ours that we were from Spain, and we were pretty righteous people there: Jewish men and women fighting against the Inquisition. A statue of one of my great-great-great grandfathers still stands in a Spanish town, apparently, in honor of his efforts. And for a second, I puffed up with pride, because it’s a nice feeling when you come from honorable people – it makes you feel kind of honorable, too.

But as I thought more about it, I realized how interesting it was, this tug in our hearts to get connected to our past families through these sorts of lineage-type activities. Because who are we looking for? Are we looking for people similar to us? Maybe you’ll find out you had a great-great-great grandmother who liked to knit, just like you do. Or a way-distant relative who liked to be very close to nature, and now you’ll feel justified to your TV-loving family that you’re not weird for not liking TV, you’re just like that great-great aunt who also just loved being outdoors. Are we looking for people to inspire us? Hey, that crazy relative went whole hog on this patent idea that made him famous and really wealthy, so maybe I can quit my job and go all-in on my idea, too! Or are we looking for ways to puff ourselves up? Apparently, my entire ancestral lineage was a bunch of good-for-nothings, and I’m doing great now in comparison – I’ve really made it!

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great fun to look back and see who was there along the way long before I arrived. But the temptation for me, and maybe for some other folks out there, is to find out someone great we can focus on (the guy they built the statue of, for example) and not the long line of people before him and since then that were just normal, everyday folk, who lived and died just doing what they did – holding down a job maybe, having children, fretting about the weather and taxes – but having enough sense to keep creating a line, so we’d get to where we are today.

In today’s world, so many of us hear the message that we need to succeed to really mean something to someone. You’re only valuable if you can produce something other people like; you only matter if people know who you are. But I think deep down, you and I know that’s not really the case. We matter because we carry an inherent dignity, just by virtue of the fact that we are people.

So if you end up doing one of these ancestry lineage tests, and you find out there’s no glamorous fruit hanging off the family tree, remember that it’s not a bad thing. Remember that the everyday folk are just as important as the freedom fighters and the warriors, because otherwise, you wouldn’t be here! And if you’re not as successful as your neighbor is, don’t stress out about that either because you’re just as worthy as they are of love and dignity.

Until next time, be well!
Christy